The Case of Hana & Alice
Tetsuko Arisugawa (AKA "Alice") is distressed to find the apartment she now lives in, and even her desk at her new school, were once occupied by a character called "Judas" who was supposedly murdered by "four Judases". Her search for the truth behind this obviously scrambled urban-legend tale leads her to the only person who seems to know much of the actual story, a reclusive girl named Hana Arai who lives just across the street.
There were exactly two things that robbed this of one star in my rating. And I'll get to those very shortly.
But first: as a comedy and girl-bonding picture, this show works extremely well. The real story behind the "mystery" is fairly simple, so the show distracts us in the meantime with two charming subplots. One involves the method one of Alice's new classmates, a girl named Mutsu Mutsumi, used to escape being bullied, which you have to give points to for creativity, even if it WAS a bit over-the-top. (The "chant" she leads everyone in is an obvious hint about what happened, or at least what everyone THINKS happened.) The other subplot is a lengthy diversion involving Alice's stalking the wrong person, and ending up with her spending a whole afternoon in the company of an elderly gentleman who is only incidentally associated with the person she originally intended to pursue. Alice- and this is really HER show, much more than Hana's- has a tendency to say and do exactly the wrong things in any given situation. Hana is the "straight man" (sexist, I know, but it's the classical description of this role), who gets exasperated with Alice's tendency to bungle things.
The background art is stunningly brilliant at times, even on such mundane things as the papers and books on a teacher's desk. The character art and animation, alas, are not so much. I have a certain prejudice against rotoscoping- the digital painting over images of live actors- that goes back to Ralph Bakshi's take on Lord of the Rings, and even the more "advanced" treatment in more modern shows (in anime, we're talking shows like Flowers of Evil, and parts of Karen Senki) has tended to disappoint me. It's not so much JUST that rotoscoped characters seem pale, drab, and ill-defined (though there's that, and here that's especially obvious, compared to the vibrant backgrounds); the real problem is that rotoscoping has NEVER been able to depict motion in anything approaching a realistic manner. It always looks awkward; jerky rather than fluid. This does a particular disservice here to Alice, whose personal interests are all ABOUT motion (in particular, ballet and running).
The rotoscoping is one of my two main grievances. The other is some blatant product placement. A certain American chocolate company apparently put up some money for the show, and so we have an image of a certain product that seems to linger for at least a minute (that's subjective, I wasn't timing it). Granted, that's one scene- we're not assaulted with product placement as in the infamous E.T. ripoff Mac and Me- but this insertion of obvious advertising still seems to cheapen the show.
But back to the good-to-great. Some of the minor characters are the sort of folks you'd like to learn more about. Alice's mom is one example; she's still got an eye for men, and by her own description that was reciprocal in her own school days. (She's a divorced author who tends to write "tell all" books about her experiences.) Then there's a classmate who harasses Alice and gets beaten up by her in reprisal (she's pretty tough), and who ends up giving her some information in her quest. And finally there's the "murder victim", who it turns out was maybe not really worth everyone's concern in the first place. The show not only deals with finding the truth behind an existing rumor- it shows how a new one can emerge.
The show's closing song, called "Fish in the Pool", is a piano-and-vocal piece with a delightful melody that suits the story- particularly the dance scenes. (This occurred to the folks who put the Blu-Ray title menu together too, where it's matched with one of the ballet scenes.)
I would have gone five stars, but for the distracting ugliness of the rotoscope animation, and for the product placement. — Allen Moody
Recommended Audience: Some of the Blu-Ray boxes say PG; the one I have says "not rated" but "recommended for audiences ages 13 and up". Main problem is violence (Alice, as I said, is pretty fierce in a fight.) One warning, mostly for small children: IT IS DANGEROUS TO SLEEP UNDER A MOTOR VEHICLE. DON'T DO IT! You get oil on you, too.
Version(s) Viewed: Blu-Ray disc
Review Status: Full (1/1)
The Case of Hana & Alice © 2015 Production I.G.
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